Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Ethnocentrism and Psychiatry

Ethnocentrism is the judgement of another culture based on one's own culture.  It's most significant when the ethnocentric individual comments on other people's language, behaviour, customs and religions.  The term ethnocentrism was coined by William G. Sumner who saw the tendency for an 'ingroup' to judge others against the standards set within it's own group.
I studied anthropologist Franz Boas who chronicled the west coast natives.  He felt very strongly that anthropology should try to transcend ethnocentricity.  He developed the principle of 'cultural relativism'.  Malinowski is cited as developping 'functionalism'.
I see colleagues sometimes and others describing my patients through a biased lens and sometimes even catch myself doing it.  Until one questions such things as the 'perception of time' and 'money' and 'mating behaviour' in one's own culture it's difficult to appreciate other cultures choices.
I've found it worthwhile to consider that all the existing cultures are like birds or animals and that they have some internal benefit to their members or they wouldn't have survived this long. I think it's worthwhile to be respectful.

No comments: